Chapter 81: Pain and Panic….
Ron’s POV – Monday – 12pm EST (Remember kidnapping happened Sunday post-race)
Why was it so hard to open my eyes? Why did they feel like they weighed 200 pounds? I could hear the voices around me.
I could hear the tears that my mom was sniffling beside me. I could hear my father talking about Jimmie and everything that he had learned, since Jimmie had so kindly told my parents the entire truth. You could tell that it didn’t go over well with my father, and I could almost guarantee a lecture at some point. But for now, I wanted to open my darn eyes and look at my mom. I wanted to assure her that I’d be okay.
I also wanted to assure Jimmie that I’d be okay. I heard him earlier – you could say an hour ago. He had muttered some words to Candiss about feeling sorry for everything that had happened, the regret that he felt, his response to my father’s obvious anger, and it broke my heart. I just wanted to open my eyes and assure him that it’d be okay.
Why was it so hard to open my eyes?
I remembered all the details of the room. I remembered Hilary grabbing me and stuffing me in her car. I remembered waking up in her torture chamber. I remember the discussions of the injections that she was going to give me. I remember feeling the pain of the leather belt against my body. I remember feeling a needle go in, numbing the pain that I had felt. I remembered the panic and screams that set in with Dom and Jimmie’s entrance in the room. Somehow, I could even picture a second injection, but don’t quote me on that.
Everything brought forth two thoughts – pain and panic. There was pain that I knew I’d be feeling, probably along my legs and waist where I felt the leather smack against the cloth of my uniform. I also knew there’d probably be pain along my wrists and ankles, where she had bound me down to the table. There was panic – panic in whether I’d be okay, panic from my friends and family out of their own worry for me.
Taking a deep breath – or so I thought it felt like one, feeling a bit of confusion in feeling something pressed against my face, I knew that I couldn’t hide within my own world any longer. They deserved to know that I was alright, and I had to face what was out there.
I slowly let my eyes open, taking in the sights that surround me.
I could see Jimmie leaning against the wall with Candiss by his side. I’m thankful that he has Candiss to keep him strong while he worried and went through his emotions. I may have been skeptical bout her at the beginning, but she was earning her chops. I could see my parents sitting beside me out of the corner of my eye, glancing back with shock on their faces, perhaps happy tears, in knowing that their baby was awake and going to be okay.
Though, as predicted, I felt a pain immediately engulf me, feeling pain along my wrists, ankles and legs. Yep, that was obviously going to happen. If you combine that with an odd pain in the side of my stomach from something, I felt the need to scream upon entering the world. Perhaps I should’ve stayed where I was a little longer. I also felt an odd pain in my chest – perhaps being caused by the second injection that I thought I remembered. Something potassium like that was supposed to stop my heart, I think.
“Easy Ron,” my mom states as she grabs my hand, rubbing it. I tried to move, though found that hard to do with all the tubes that I thought I felt around me.
I went to talk, say something in return – ask questions, assure them that I was okay – though found that moving my mouth wasn’t something that I could do. What was going on?
I felt my heartbreak begin to quicken as panic and worry set in with the foreign objects that I felt, and inability to do things. Why couldn’t I move much? Why couldn’t I speak? What was against my face? What was going? I was rescued, right? I’m in the hospital. This looks like a hospital. Oh my….
“Easy Mr. Malec,” I hear a doctor say as he flashes a bright light in my eyes. Too bright, too bright – close immediately. Why did I open my eyes to begin with? “Good reaction time. Now, Mr. Malec, I need you to calm down please…” I wanted to do as he requested, but yet so many questions entered my mind. I needed to know what was going on.
“Easy Ron….” My mother states once again, continuing to rub my hand. I wished that it’d calm me down, but it didn’t seem to be helping.
“You have a tube down your throat helping you breathe. You were injected with potassium chloride. It’s meant to stop your heart, but we were able to counteract before it did damage and you should make it out with issues. The tube is there while your chest and body heals from the injection. I need to remain relaxed. If we see signs of continued improvement, perhaps we can work at removing the tube tomorrow or Wednesday.” That explained why I couldn’t talk. That explained why my chest felt like it was on fire. That explained why there was thing pushing against my face. Reasonably so that was fine as I understood what the doctor was saying. As long as I was going to be okay, that’s what mattered. I just hoped that he continued to assure my parents and Jimmie of that fact.
“See babes, you’re going to be okay…” Okay, so my parents were getting the message. I guess being awake that’d help them feel better too, right? I mean, it’s always nice when you can somewhat communicate.
“Now, I don’t want you moving much as there’s a tube in your stomach. We had to flush out your system due to the amount of drugs and looking to save you. Before we remove the vent, we will be knocking you out and removing that, and stitching as required.” Great. I have a hole in the side of my stomach because of that bitch. Isn’t that pleasant? No wonder I am in pain! Deep breathes, Ron, deep breathes. You’re going to be okay. Just be thankful that you’re going to be okay.
“How long will that take to heal?” I hear Jimmie’s voice, barely. I could tell that he was worried by how quiet he was. I wanted to simply wrap my arms around him and tell him it wasn’t his fault. I wanted to tell my father to lay off of him, too. I just wanted everything perfect, if you will.
“It will take 2-3 weeks for the wound to heal, Mr. Johnson,” the doctor states and I immediately roll my eyes. That meant 2-3 weeks of barely any movement and pain. Excuse me while I scream now. “Also, be careful with your IV as we have fluids working our way through. Given the strain on your face, I’ll increase your dosage of morphine to help you there.” Finally! Thank you! If he hadn’t done that, I was tempted to just fall back into my own world of peace. I almost did – but they stopped me. I couldn’t leave Jimmie and my parents worrying. “I’ll come back to check on you later. For now, focus on resting and getting better….” With that, the doctor left the room.
Okay, what else am I supposed to do? I can’t move off of this bed. I can’t talk due to this stupid tube down my throat. I can’t even try and move because of another stupid tube stuck in the side of my stomach. So answer me – what else am I supposed to do except rest and focus on getting better?
I knew there was one thing that I could do, though. I had to do this as I had to ease some of Jimmie’s worry. I may not be able to ease his heart and worry totally, but I had to give him some comfort. He was my best friend and he didn’t deserve to shoulder the blame.
I lift my free arm – right arm – off of the bed slowly and point his direction, motioning for him to come closer.
“You want to see me?” He asks quietly and I shake my head yes, slowly and not very much obviously. I watch as he slowly walks over, timidly. I swear I could kick his ass right now for how he was acting and feeling.
As soon as he reaches the bed, I wrap my arm around him, pulling him into a hug. I couldn’t say the words. I couldn’t explain my thought. However, I could only hope that hug would be enough of a message for the next 24 hours till I could tell him how I felt.
“I love you too buddy,” he replies as I finally release him from the hug. “Focus on getting better. It’s going to be okay.” I then watch as he slowly returns to his spot. My hug did enough in getting through – for now – as I could see his mood lighten a little. However, certainly more was needed. I also could see the hesitation around my parent, and that was getting cleared up tomorrow as well.
I didn’t care what Jimmie thought. I didn’t care what my parents thought. There was only one thing that mattered, and that was the fact that I was going to be okay and it wasn’t his fault.
Chapter 82: Apologies and Explainations
Jimmie’s POV – Tuesday – 5pm EST
My heart ached. It pained me to see him laying there in pain with tubes here and there and everywhere, doing various things. I swore I was going to cry harder than I ever thought possible when I walked in here and saw him Sunday night, knocked out with tubes everywhere.
That ache has eased with seeing him awake and seeing truth to the doctor’s words that he would be okay. The breathing tube had been removed, along with the tube that they had inserted in his stomach. They still were giving him oxygen – something about making it easy as possible to breathe while his chest healed – and the IV with pain meds and fluids. But, he was going to be okay and that was the main thing.
It was also hard at times to stand in the room. I had done the honest and what I believed the right thing to do in telling his parents the whole truth. I told them everything from when we started our troubles as teens to now. They deserved to know the truth with having seen Ron’s condition. I apologized numerous times along the way also.
Those apologies had gone unnoticed by his father, though. It still felt like he wanted to strangle me. He kept giving me a death stare, and looked to barely tolerating my appearance in the room. I wasn’t leaving the room, though, as I cared about my best friend and was going to be here for him. I got him stuck in this mess, and I was going to for sure help him.
“How are you feeling?” I finally squeak out. After leaving the room to have the stomach tube removed and stitches put in, he had returned about an hour later. They then waited for him wake up, removing the tube and requesting a period of quiet time. The doctor had just checked in, clearing everything, so he was set to rock ‘n’ roll with talking as normal.
“Sore,” he replies with a glance over my way. It was evident by the look on his face. “My chest feels like its on fire, my side is just unbearable pain it seems, and I can barely move. But – it’s okay. I’m going to be okay and everything will heal. The pain pills will start doing what they need to do. I’m okay, Jimmie. You can stop worrying.” Was it that obvious that I was worried? I didn’t try to make it obvious, standing in the background and allowing his parents to take front stage. I mean, I did cause this mess, right?
“I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry….” I couldn’t hold back apologizing. Candiss, Chad and Dom each have tried to convince me that it wasn’t my fault, however let’s face it – they didn’t know the truth. They didn’t know that Ron had tried to chase me away from these people and I had failed to listen.
“It’s not your faul-” Are we really going to do this?
“It is my fault!” I then take a deep breath, calming myself back down. It wasn’t fair to yell here. “I didn’t listen to you. You warned me that something would happen. You warned me that I would regret it later on. I didn’t listen to you and look where we are.”
“Right, but it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that David, Clayton and Hilary did what they did to me. It’s not your fault that they made those decisions after what happened. Besides, it was both of us who decided to get wrapped up in this in the beginning.” I wanted to believe him. I wanted to let the guilt go, but it was so hard to do that.
“If he would’ve listened, then he never would’ve met this David guy and there never would’ve been any issue,” Ron’s dad then fumes, filling in my exact thoughts.
“But that’s not what happened,” Ron starts as he looks over at his dad. Great – now I’ve started issues with his parents. Kick the guilt meter up another notch, please. “It was his decision. I didn’t get stuck in it due to not listening. I got stuck in it because Hilary wanted to kidnap someone on the team to send a messa-”
“Because he got invov-”
“Dad, it was both our decision to get involved when we were younger! Heck, Jimmie didn’t want to go street racing originally. I was the one that wanted to go, but knew he was the better driver. If you’re going to blame anyone, blame me for getting him involved originally! No – better yet, blame the people who actually did this to me!” I found my guilt disappearing in hearing his explanation as perhaps I was being too hard on myself. Everybody makes their own decisions, and it was Hilary who decided to inject Ron with those needles.
“Ron, you’re not getting what we’re say-”
“I get what you’re saying, Dad!” I watch as Ron places his hand on his chest, taking a deep breath. Maybe this was a bad time for this at all. “About 98% percent of the people that you meet there are good people that are just looking for a fun time. They are just people wanting to test the limits of themselves and their cars and show-off. They’re just general car guys who want to discuss why they love their cars, and enjoy the thrill. Hence why it was a lot of fun back then. Of course, there’s always that small group that ruins it for everybody. Can you honestly put all that blame on Jimmie’s shoulders? No!” He had a point. That was the truth back then and in every group, there’s always someone that ruins it or perhaps causes a problem. Deep breath Jimmie, deep breath. Remember – it wasn’t your fault.
“Ron, I still feel bad though as David was originally after me,” I tell him, which was the truth. Remember –the bounty was on my head. “You weren’t ever supposed to be involved.”
“But I got involved and this happened,” he says. “Can we change that now? No. Can we look back and have regrets? Sure, but that’s both of our fault for doing what we did then. Jimmie, things are not going to change moving forward. You’re still my best friend and I still love you like a brother. We’re still going to be close as ever, working on racecars and muscle cars together.”
“Ron….” I hear his mom and know what she’s thinking already.
“Don’t worry Mrs. Malec, we both promise to behave and stick to racing on the track, right Ronnie?” I question and Ron shakes his head yes with a smile. I couldn’t help but smile in return. It felt nice to hear him say that things wouldn’t change and that he was willing to let this go. With a glance over at his dad, I just hoped that he’d feel the same way at some point.
“I’m glad to hear that Jimmie. Just make sure you take care of my boy.” I smile and shake my head, agreeing. She didn’t have to worry. I’m sure Chad and I will be keeping a close eye on him.
“You have nothing to worry about ma’am. I just hope that we can square things away.” That last comment was meant for his father as my eyes found his. It seemed that his anger was softening so perhaps we were having an effect.
“Just make sure you win this weekend for me, okay?” I shake my head in agreement. We had to win. We had to win so we could move on to the next round in the championship. It was going to be about putting everything on the line at Talladega this coming weekend.
“Buddy, I’m going to be trying extra hard just for you.” If I ever needed a further push to try harder, the combination of championship dreams and a win for a friend was the perfect ticket to that.
It was time to go win in Talladega.
Chapter 83: Talladega
Jimmie’s POV – Friday
I hated leaving the hospital. I wanted to stay there and be with him and help him through the recovery. However, I couldn’t stay there. I had to go to Talladega and finish what we started this year. I had to win the race and advance us in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and win the championship for Ron. It was simple as that.
There was some ease when I left the hospital.
I had called Rick and gave him a big thank you in allowing me to stay in Kansas with Ron, versus traveling back to North Carolina and doing other commitments that us drivers normally have. I thanked him for his patience, acceptance of everything involved, and clearing my schedule.
I also thanked the crew guys – Chad, Cody, the rest of them – for patience in not seeing me for the week. That apology wasn’t needed as they were more concerned with how Ron was doing.
Ron was also showing signs of improvement. He was breathing more and more on his own with the amount of oxygen they were giving him decreasing each day. He still had some pain, but it was becoming manageable. He was also talking more and starting to even move a bit. They even hinted that they could possibly allow him to head home next week. I told him to take it easy cheering for us this weekend.
Returning to the track, I was set to focus on driving the car – running the pair of Friday practices and getting the car to handle as best as I could in our single car runs. I wanted to make sure that we had the best car possible to win the race and accomplish our goal.
However, in between those practices, there was something else that took my schedule – time with the media. It was supposed to be my time to go discuss our chances, how badly we need to win to move forward and the frustration of the past couple of weeks. Obviously, you could imagine how quickly that went off course because they had something else to talk about.
I answered the questions, easily, explaining that Ron was doing better but had a long road to recovery. They didn’t need specifics – HMS had released that – but it was nice and comforting to hear from my perspective that he would be okay. They asked about his recovery time and how long he wouldn’t be at the track – I told them I wasn’t sure. They asked about his replacement, in which I explained that Cody and the other engineers were stepping up for the time being. Who knew Cody was such a cool dude.
The questions then stemmed back to the racing, in which I answered with ease. What was my strategy? Go out, run up front all day, lead the most laps and win. Was I confident? I believed that we had a good car. How do I feel about Talladega being an elimination race? That wasn’t such a cut clear answer as there’s good and bad to that.
The next 20 minute went by smoothly without any issues. It surprised me, honestly, as I was waiting for someone to bring up Ron’s deal once again. It was going to be just a matter of time before they tried to play connections in how this guy had found us, whether through me or Ron. It was just a matter of time before I put together a series of lies for those questions. However, I never had the opportunity as they kept quiet. Perhaps they’re waiting for Ron’s return – no clue.
With the media availability complete, I returned to the hauler to discuss more with Chad about our plan for the second practice. It was simple – run by ourselves to avoid trouble while working on the handling. The discussion just stemmed around discussing things that we wanted to try.
“Media go smoothly?” Chad asks as I walk into the hauler and take my seat on the couch. I simply shake my head yes.
“They asked a couple questions as to how he was but nothing else,” I answer, knowing what Chad was wondering. He still hadn’t come to accepting my street racing past – I could tell it still stemmed an evil cord with him. However, he was willing to look past it if I didn’t go back down that road.
“Do you do those question sessions every week?” I hear a male voice and glance over to see Dom there. Considering that we were predicting the seas to a little rough, he had come along. Besides, I think he was starting to enjoy being at the track after last weekend.
“Yep. They’re a way for the media to talk to us to get quotes so they can write stories. We help them by answering questions so they help us by promoting the sport.” Hence why I play the part of a media darling, even when I want to kill them.
“Anybody heard from Ron?” Chad then questions and I put my hand up. There was a reason why my phone was glued to my hand. He had been texting me throughout the day already, checking in to see how things were going.
“Is he doing okay?” Candiss asks and I shake my head yes. That had been the least of the discussion as Ron was more concerned about the car, as usual.
“Sore, but pain killers are working,” I answer, remembering his response from earlier. “And Chad, he says he’s watching practice and keeping an eye on you so you better behave.” I watch as the crew chief chuckles with a quick thumbs up as he goes through his notes. “Oh, and he says we should hurry up and win the race quickly to give him a break from his parents.” Let’s just say that they can be over-bearing, concerning at times and turn into being annoying. At least they had stopped giving me the evil eye and agreed to move forward without any regrets. It certainly helped me feel better.
“Tell him it will be worth it once he’s holding the trophy,” Chad offers with a smile as I type that back to Ron in a response.
The more we talked about winning, the more I wanted to win the race and take him back a trophy. But, this is Talladega – and we know anything is possible at Talladega.